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Rich Henderson's Diary
The First 180 Days

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Rich Henderson, a lawyer, always dreamed of being a teacher. Last year, he gave up his law career and returned to the classroom to earn his teaching certification. This year, his dream finally comes true in a fifth-grade classroom in suburban Woodbury, Connecticut. Each week during this school year -- Rich's first year in the classroom -- he will share with Education World readers his thoughts and feelings about his first 180 days!

Rich's Diary: Silence

Week 16

"Do you hear what I hear?" Ah, that ever-popular Christmas song is so appropriate at this time of year -- not only for its ability to fan the Yuletide spirit but also for the profoundness that lies within its question: What do I hear? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The crafts were made, the pizza was eaten, the carols were sung, and the party is over. All my students have gone home for the Christmas vacation. There is nothing left but the silence. I have never appreciated the silence as much as I do at this moment.

Excited. Wound-up. Energized. Crazed. No matter which label you choose, it amply described the emotions of my students during the days before the Christmas vacation. I expected some degree of anticipation and excitement but nothing near the level that they exhibited. Students who were normally talkative became even chattier. Students who were usually quiet became relatively adept in the art of conversation. Silliness and giddiness seemed to be the common thread that bound the children in a state of holiday delight.

As if students' emotions were not stimulated enough, they were compounded by our class activities, such as making gingerbread houses and various holiday crafts. Talk about adding fuel to the Yuletide flame! All of those factors had the elements of sheer bedlam. Yet, even though it was a time of "fun and games," I had to make sure that their "holiday spirits" did not get out of control. I did not want to quash the fun, but, at the same time, if their behavior was left unchecked, this holiday craziness could have easily turned into classroom mayhem.

The noise level continuously escalated to a crescendo until I once again reminded students of the virtue of silence -- a quality that ten-year-olds don't seem to desire or appreciate. It was an attribute that I found most desirable this week yet highly elusive.

However, despite abundant enthusiasm, both my students and I survived the week. Their excitement was contained without being extinguished, and my sanity still abounds without being lessened. I know that next year, I will be much better prepared for the holiday season.

As I sit in my classroom at 3:45 p.m., I am simply absorbed by the silence. Silence has never sounded so good. I am enjoying every moment of peace and quiet. So, as I reflect upon the week, I am reminded that there are only 357 days until the next wave of "holiday cheer."

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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01/04/2001